The PTI has found itself in a difficult situation as a result of its alliance with the PML-Q: how to govern Punjab. Both parties require each other, but their differences are stark. It is not impossible for the PTI to regard Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi’s ‘friendship’ as a costly embrace.
According to media reports, he has managed to persuade the PTI that he will not take the vote of confidence, despite the PTI’s insistence that he do so before the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) hearing on his de-notification on January 11.
Elahi was adamant that he would not accept the vote of confidence and had apparently warned the PTI in no uncertain terms that its leadership should refrain from making irresponsible statements in this regard. The PTI was also reportedly reminded of the crackdown launched by the PMLN-led Punjab government in May 2022 when the party decided to go on its first long march.
Such advice from Elahi is not lost on anyone—or should not be. The PTI would do well to remember how important having a government in Punjab is, something Imran and his party seem to forget when they come up with rash ideas like dissolving provincial assemblies.
Even before Imran announced the dissolution of the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies, Elahi reportedly tried to persuade him otherwise, claiming that these two provincial governments give the PTI an advantage in bargaining and provide Imran with protection in addition to preventing his arrest. Imran, however, went ahead with his announcement despite his temperament.
Political observers predicted at the time that he would fail in his plan because people within his party and the PML-Q were opposed to the decision. According to political pundits, the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly has been put on hold indefinitely due to a court case and the PDM’s options of asking the Punjab CM for a vote of confidence again or filing a no-trust motion. This suits all quarters—the PML-Q, the PML-N, and ‘other stakeholders.’
Another significant difference between the two parties, the PTI and the PML-Q, has been their reaction to the Wazirabad JIT’s investigation into Imran Khan’s assassination attempt. Even now, when the PTI complains that it was unable to register the FIR it desired with some important names in a province it ruled due to pressure from powerful quarters, it blames everyone but its own chief minister.
The reason is straightforward: The PTI has no choice. If it puts too much pressure on the PML-Q, the party will be forced to resign from the Punjab government, and the PML-N will benefit once again. Instead of pursuing its own goal, the PTI is supporting the PML-Q in order to ensure the survival of the Punjab government.
So far, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi has prevailed over the PTI, but this may cause some frustration among the PTI leadership: they are in power in Punjab but not powerful in Punjab because real power rests with the CM, who belongs to a completely different party. Imagine how perplexing this is for the PTI.
However, there are rumours that the PML-N does not want to go into the general elections without the Punjab govt and wants to be back in power before the next elections. It is unclear whether it will act before or after the Punjab local government elections. Punjab is still a battleground.